No more suspense for Thackeray as MLC polls announced

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The Election Commission of India’s (ECI) decision to hold elections to nine vacant Legislative Council seats on May 21, a day after the recommendation from Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, paves the way for an Upper House seat for Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, removing uncertainty around the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government’s leadership.

The constituents of the MVA government said the ECI’s decision is a clear signal that those who wanted to unsettle the government have failed in their endeavour. “The government was always stable, and it will remain so,” Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) State president and Water Resources Minister Jayant Patil said.

“While the world is fighting its battle against the novel coronavirus, some people in the State were trying to create political instability in Maharashtra. With the Election Commission’s decision, those forces have tasted failure yet again,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which was accused by the MVA constituents of creating roadblocks in Mr. Thackeray’s election, said the Governor’s recommendation and the ECI’s decision shows that democracy and the Constitution have been upheld.

“The stand taken by the Governor shows that he does not come under political pressure to take any decision. It also proves that democracy and the Constitution have been upheld,” said Leader of the Opposition in the Council, Pravin Darekar.

The term of nine members of the Maharashtra Council ended on April 24. Of these, the BJP and NCP have three MLCs each, the Congress has two, while the Shiv Sena has one. The MLCs are set to be elected by 288 MLAs. Each candidate would thus require the support of roughly 29 MLAs to get elected. The current strength of each party indicates that four BJP MLCs will get elected, and of the remaining five, two each from the NCP and the Congress and one from the Sena may get elected.

As of now, the election is likely to be unopposed as no party has announced that it will pitch the 10th candidate.

On Thursday morning, Mr. Thackeray made a courtesy call to Mr. Koshyari at Raj Bhavan on the occasion of Maharashtra Day. A delegation of Cabinet ministers had met Mr. Koshyari on April 28 and presented to him a copy of the resolution passed by the Cabinet to recommend Mr. Thackeray’s name to be nominated on one of the two other vacant seats in the Council. After Mr. Koshyari hinted that the CM must consult Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue, the CM called New Delhi the next day.

On April 30, all three parties wrote to the ECI to hold elections to the nine Council seats “due to unprecedented circumstances” and to avoid political instability in the State, given that Mr. Thackeray has to be elected to either legislative Houses before May 28. The Governor too wrote to the ECI recommending this, after which the ECI held a meeting via videoconferencing on Thursday and announced the decision to conduct the election on May 21.

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